More than 400 people who have been patients of Dr. W. Scott Harrington , the Tulsa, Okla., dentist whose practices are at the center of a health scare there lined up early Saturday for free blood testing, according to ABCNews.com . Potentially, thousands of Harrington's former patients will be visiting the North Tulsa health department office over the next few weeks to have their blood tested for the presence of HIV , hepatitis B and hepatitis C .
Health Care Nightmare for Tulsa Dental Patients
Harrington, who until last week had active dental practices in Tulsa and nearby Owasso, Okla., potentially exposed 7,000 patients to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and both hepatitis B and hepatitis C through unsanitary practices. The news and concerns related to Harrington's office practices came to light Thursday when it was confirmed that a former patient of the dentist had tested positive for both HIV and hepatitis C.
People who had visited either of Harrington's offices for procedures ranging from teeth cleaning to extractions and more may have been exposed to the blood-borne viruses that could have been transmitted from one patient to another through the rusty instruments, re-used needles, or non-sterile equipment investigators from the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry found upon inspection of the dentist's offices.
Free Blood Testing Offered Through Tulsa Health Department
The North Regional Health and Wellness Center offices of the Tulsa Health Department began offering free blood testing on Saturday for people who have been Harrington's patients, both those since 2007 and those who were the dentist's patients prior to 2007. The offered testing will continue for several weeks, with the North Tulsa clinic accepting people on a walk-in basis weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Those people who were known patients of Harrington's were mailed notification letters on Friday and those who received the letters should bring them to the clinic when coming for blood testing. Patients of the dentist prior to 2007 are encouraged to call the hotline set up for information related to this issue between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays, when both English and Spanish-speaking public health staff is available and will be given the information needed to obtain the free blood testing.
Anyone with questions or concerns about this health issue is also encouraged to call the hotline at 918-595-4500.
The results of the blood testing will begin to be available two weeks after the testing date. Those people who give permission to the health department to mail negative results in the mail will be notified in that manner and those with positive test results will be notified personally by a health department professional who will also provide recommendations for any needed follow-up and after-care.
How Did This Happen?
How is it that so many people -- or even one person -- had the potential to be exposed to infection with viruses that are associated with healthy risk practices such as IV drug use in a dentist's office? Susan Rogers , executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, explained to WPTV.com that unlike some other states, Oklahoma does not conduct random inspections of dental offices, but does so only after receiving a complaint.
Might this incident change the way the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry schedules and conducts inspection of dental offices and practices in the future? There is no current indication that such changes will take place. Concerned Oklahoma residents can contact their elected officials to voice their opinions on the matter.
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